Angel “thrilled” with men’s track and field’s NCAA Championships performances

Wayne Angel took three athletes to Fayetteville, Ark., for the NCAA Outdoor Championships and left with two All-Americans. The performances of junior Greg Shroka and freshman Andrew Riley had the Illinois men’s track and field head coach “thrilled to death.”

Neither Shroka nor Riley had been to outdoor nationals before this past week, and while Riley won All-American honors during last indoor season, Shroka had never been to a national meet.

Shroka got some help from unexpected places. His first break came when the preliminaries of the high jump were pushed back by a rain delay of more than three hours.

“I think it really helped me out because I was really nervous going in, before the rain delay,” Shroka said. “And then I think just you know, talking to my coaches, my parents and you know, guys on the team, just kind of relaxed me.”

When Shroka finally did jump, it took him the maximum three tries to clear the height that sent him to the finals.

During the finals, Shroka also needed three jumps to clear a height of seven feet, 0.25 inches. Since Shroka was the first jumper in the order, there was little time between his successful third attempt and his first jump at the raised height of seven feet, 1.50 inches. Warmed up, he cleared the raised height on his first attempt to place sixth.

While Shroka had three tries to jump a given height, Riley needed to race three times in the 110-meter hurdles — the preliminary, semifinal and final rounds — to become an All-American. But despite achieving the honor, Riley was not quite satisfied with his performance.

Excited when he saw that he placed fifth in the finals, Riley felt a tinge of disappointment when he looked further across the scoreboard and saw his time of 13.83 seconds, which did not meet his goal of 13.5 seconds. There was little Riley could do, since the race was run into a strong headwind that raised all of the competitors’ times.

Now, with his successful season in the books, Riley is, in his words, “off from competition, back in the classroom,” with the start of Summer Session II.

However, the coach’s season is never over, as Angel will work throughout the summer recruiting and isolating specific areas that need improvement in hopes of improving the team’s ninth-place finish in the Big Ten.

“You look at the situations that weren’t as productive, you analyze what happened and you make sure that you do a better job next time,” Angel said. “And if you didn’t work the athletes hard enough, then we work them harder, if they weren’t committed we want to find out why they weren’t committed and to get them on the right track.

“But the bottom-line is, we want a program that’s going to be battling at the middle-of-the-pack in the Big Ten and, at some point down the road, battling for a championship. So as a staff, we have to do a better job if we want to get there.”